Menu

How to turn your backyard into a Montessori-inspired play space

Learning doesn't require tons of money.

Montessori-inspired backyard

Summer is here and it's the perfect time to get outside with your little one. Outdoor play time can help your child focus on new and exciting experiences in nature. Whether it's filling a bucket with rocks to carry around the yard and exert maximum energy or planting some seeds to watch them grow, setting up a Montessori-inspired outdoor play space provides a rich environment for fun and learning.

But don't overthink it, mama. A Montessori space can be organized and set up similar to an indoor play space with a few adjustments for size and safety. Some families like to have exposed shelves on a patio to store just a few items at a time while other designate bins or lower areas of a shed for their little ones toys and materials.

Here are a few ideas to create a Montessori-inspired outdoor space from Zahra Kassam, CEO and founder of Monti Kids:

1. Create a garden

From planting herbs and flowers to complex vegetables and trees, gardening is a great way to help kids appreciate the greenery around them. A study found that a healing garden at a children's hospital in California had positive effects on users—about 85% reported feeling more relaxed, refreshed or better able to cope after spending only five minutes in the garden.

"Gardening is a wonderful lesson on the power of nature but also in patience and care, says Kassam. "Invest in child-sized watering cans and tools."

2. Create access to water

Children learn through exploration and experience, and water is the perfect tool to explore. Having a watering can and water table for scooping, pouring, dumping, spraying and staying cool is the goal for fun in the sun. "You can also encourage water exploration with a hose on a safe setting, or even a jug of water that is refilled by you," says Kassam.

But whatever type of water play you decide, remember to be safe. According to the AAP, parents need to ensure "close, constant, attentive supervision around water [and assign] an adult 'water watcher,' who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores."

3. Play in sand

A sand area with buckets, shovels and trucks are also great for entertainment and child-lead learning. "Put that interest in building and creativity to work," says Kassam. "Sand is a great outlet for sensory fun with a different medium."

4. Create a mud kitchen

Mud may sound like a mess you'll want to avoid, but it's great to create an "anything goes" space, says Kassam. "Put the water and sand together and it's a great foundation to build, mix, scoop, dump and pour," she says.

5. Encourage play with gross motor toys

Push toys, ride on cars, big trucks, rakes, wheelbarrows, balls and slides are perfect for developing gross motor skills. If you have the space, create "parking spots" with tape or chalk lines for each one, says Kassam.

Editor pick: iimo 3-in-1 folding tricycle with canopy

6. Have many yard tools

A child-sized broom for sweeping sand and debris, a rake for sticks, leaves and a shovel for digging, planting and worm hunting (and shoveling snow in the winter!) will be staples in your outdoor space for years to come, says Kassam.

7. Play with art

According to Kassam, you'll want to regularly keep large paint brushes and a container for water to paint the patio, fence or sidewalk on hand. It's also great to have a bucket of sidewalk chalk to help your little one to find an outlet for their creative side while enjoying the outdoors.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

From Your Site Articles

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

Keep reading Show less
Life